Artists among their paint pots, behind the computer screen, with a chisel in their hand, or a paint brush or a tattoo pen. Alone or in conversation with others, in their studio, in the city and in the jungle. Paramaribo SPAN. Contemporary Art in Suriname focuses on the action, on the idea that contemporary art can be more than a collection of objects. Paramaribo SPAN deals with the visual arts as a practice. An extraordinarily varied practice, as evidenced by stories from 27 visual artists from Suriname and Rotterdam, whose interviews appear in the book.
Paramaribo SPAN marks the completion of a four-year exchange project between Rotterdam and Paramaribo, ARTRoPa. The exhibition was shown in Paramaribo in March of 2010 and will be on display in the Netherlands this fall. The project has three mutually related platforms: a book, an exhibition and a blog. The book was published in Dutch, English and Portuguese; the blog is in English.
Exchange frequently implies emphasising differences. However, Christopher Cozier, who produced the exhibition, has not interpreted 'Suriname' as a label, or as a category into which art must fit, but as a location where things happen. Cozier formulates questions and answers about recent visual arts in Suriname: what do artists want, how is success defined, how do we view that art? The questions are interesting, but abstract. What they signify in the lives of artists is translated into concrete terms in the interviews with artists: the conversations deal with materials, international meetings, cultural identity and personal development, but also with supply and demand and with earning a living.
Installation by Ravi Rajcoomar for Paramaribo SPAN
"Cultural life in Paramaribo is nothing to write home about," says Karel Doing, one of the participating artists. "I don’t mean to denigrate the individual qualities of the artists in any way, but they live in a sort of black hole." But apparently this is a black hole in which some people really thrive. Visual artist Ellen Ligteringen, who emigrated from the Netherlands to Suriname: "When I left that art scene, when I was able to let go of that subsidy network... It was such a relief. Now I am creating my own path."